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An interesting jelly-like find along the Richards Bay shore

The jelly-like creatures Hennie Griessel came across along the Richards Bay shoreline. Picture: Hennie Griessel

The jelly-like creatures Hennie Griessel came across along the Richards Bay shoreline. Picture: Hennie Griessel

Published Mar 21, 2022

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DURBAN – The South African Association for Marine Biological Research (Saambr) has indicated that not all pieces of jelly seen or found along the beach or in the water were from jellyfish.

Saambr commented after Richards Bay resident Hennie Griessel came across “seldom identified creatures” while he was walking along the Richards Bay shore. Since Griessel did not know what the creatures were, he sent them to Saambr to identify them.

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Saambr’s Ann Kunz said when most people see these “jelly beans” on the beach, they do not give them a second look and assume they are merely pieces of jellyfish.

The jelly-like creatures Hennie Griessel came across along the Richards Bay shoreline. Picture: Hennie Griessel

“They are in fact salps and are more closely related to fish than they are to jellyfish. They are free-floating open ocean creatures with brains, hearts, complex nervous, circulatory and digestive systems that propel themselves through the water in long strings or swarms,” Kunz said.

“They are the fastest-growing multicellular animal on earth. They can grow to maturity in 48 hours and increase their body length by 10% every hour. They are able to respond very quickly to phytoplankton blooms.

“Salps play an important role in the ocean as they move down through the water filtering plankton for food, excreting and thereby spreading ocean nutrients. In turn, they are fed on by a range of different sized fish including the sunfish,” added Kunz.

She appealed that next time while walking along the shoreline and you come across what you think is a piece of jellyfish, perhaps stop and take a closer look. They are not dangerous to humans.

They were “very small blue creatures that look like sea dragons”, said a holidaymaker. Picture: Camilla Jacobs

In a separate incident earlier this month, Saambr shared a story about how Camilla Jacobs and her son were enjoying a holiday on the South Coast until their swim was interrupted by the arrival of hundreds of small blue bottles.

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Jacobs said as they could no longer enjoy swimming in the ocean, they decided to walk along the shoreline and came across what she described as “very small blue creatures that look like sea dragons”.

“She took a photograph of the ’dragons’ and sent them to us for identification. Perhaps you, too, have come across these ’sea dragons’ and wondered what they were,” Kunz said.

“They are sea swallows (Glaucus atlanticus) which are a species of small shell-less gastropods. They belong to the nudibranchia order and are normally found floating upside down in the open ocean. They feed on blue bottles and violet snails and are sometimes washed ashore alongside bluebottles by strong onshore winds,” she said.

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Related Topics:

Marine Ecology

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